The Philippine Olympic Committee is on the same page with Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes on the proposal that collegiate stars be sent to compete in the Southeast Asian Games instead of professional players.
In a telephone conversation with Daily Tribune, the POC chief said he wants to use the biennial meet as a developmental tournament for amateur standouts.
Knowing that other countries had already improved their basketball program following the emergence of the Asean Basketball League and other international tourneys, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas decided to send an all-professional team when the country hosted the SEA Games in 2019.
With Tim Cone as head coach, the Filipinos dominated the opposition to send a strong statement that they are still the kings of basketball in the regional stage.
But in the Hanoi edition of the Games in 2022, disaster struck as the all-professional Gilas Pilipinas squad bowed to Indonesia in the gold medal match to snap its 28-year of dominance.
With that, the SBP deployed the Philippine Basketball Association players anew and tapped Barangay Ginebra San Miguel reinforcement Justin Brownlee as naturalized player with three college stars in Jerom Lastimosa of Adamson University, Mike Phillips of De La Salle University and Mason Amos of Ateneo de Manila University.
The result was impressive as Gilas got the job done when they clobbered Cambodia, 80-69, in the final to regain the title.
Following their triumphant performance, Reyes expressed his desire to revert to the old practice of sending the Gilas Cadets, a team composed of the brightest collegiate stars, to the biennial meet.
Tolentino said he agrees with the Gilas mentor.
“I support that move,” Tolentino said, adding that it can be done if schools will allow their student-athletes to compete in the SEA Games just like what they have done in the past.
“That can be done if the (collegiate) leagues will allow their players to suit up. We just have to reach out to them.”
Tolentino said if football allows players under 23 years of age to suit up, the same thing can be enforced in basketball.
“I will raise this if given the chance.”
The next edition of the SEA Games will be hosted by Thailand.